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10/05/09

Permalink 08:37:56 pm, by Tom, 651 words, 2790 views   English (UK)
Categories: News

MEPs vote for medical progress

Yesterday Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted by a overwhelming majority to approve a report submitted by the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee on proposed revisions to EU directive 86/609, the EU rules that ensure the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The report approved by MEPs makes several welcome changes to earlier proposals for the long-awaited revision of EU directive 86/609 that were put forward by the EU Commission last year. We are delighted to learn that MEPs have listened to the many scientists, charities and patients who have discussed with them the potential impact of these revisions on scientific research with them over the course of the past few months and have asked them to remember the patients when they cast their vote. They clearly agree with Sir Terry Pratchett, who while speaking on behalf of Remember the Patients recently said:

"There's only two ways it can go: researchers, with as much help you can give them, may come up with something that reduces the effects of this dreadful, inhuman disease, or we will have to face the consequences of our failure to prevent the final years of many of us being a long bad dream."

MEPs have voted to remove articles that would have increased bureaucratic burden placed in scientists without improving the welfare of animals, for example by extending the scope of the directive to include hens eggs and microscopic crustaceans, and have also voted to amend an article that would have prevented monkeys from being used in important basic research that seeks to illuminate the processes that are involved in diseases such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.

On hearing of the vote Professor Tipu Aziz, Oxford neuroscientist and Pro-Test science advisor said:

"With this vote MEPs are sending a clear message to the national governments that they want Europe to remain at the forefront of 21st century medical science, while also demonstrating their solidarity with the many patients who await the development of new treatments and cures"

While not perfect the proposed revisions to EU directive 86/609 that have been approved by the European parliament strike a good balance between encouraging and facilitating high quality medical research in Europe and protecting the welfare of the animals used in that research. They will now go back to the EU commission and then to the European Council of Ministers, and these bodies may either choose to accept the amendments made by the Parliament, at which point the revisions will become law, or reject and further amend some, which would trigger a further round of debate and voting. It is therefore crucial that the scientific community continues to engage with Europes politicians on this issue to safeguard the progress that has been achieved.

Pro-Test welcomes this vote and thanks the MEPs for voting to support and protect the future of medical research in Europe. Without such research medical advances for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s would be at a huge disadvantage.

Looking closer to home we are pleased to see that Oxford University has published the number of primates it uses for animal experiments, but it is a pity that it took a Freedom of Information request by the BUAV to compel them to do so. Universities and other institutions that conduct animal research should strive to be as open and transparent as possible about the work that their scientists do, and while we acknowledge that there is still a need to protect staff and scientists from animal rights extremists care must be taken to ensure that the necessary precautions do not stand in the way of efforts to improve communication and dialogue. Despite the threat from extremists Oxford University has made great strides towards increased openness in recent years, even inviting documentary makers to film in its laboratories, and we hope that with the publication of these statistics it will redouble these laudable efforts.

Cheers

Paul Browne

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